Interviewing When You Have a Job: Tips from a Recruiter

By Biron Clark


Interview Preparation

Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

Interviewing when you already have a job is one of the best ways to advance your career.

There’s not as much pressure, and companies view it as a good sign that you’re currently employed, so they’re more eager to hire you.

Interviewing while employed can be stressful, though. I’m going to share my best tips to help you successfully manage your job interviews while you have a job.

Tips for Going on Interviews When You Have a Job:

1. Be selective

Job searching while employed is your chance to upgrade your career and salary in a big way. So be specific in what you want, and stick to it. Don’t be afraid to say, “no” to an interview request.

Or one of my favorite strategies you can try: Take as many phone interviews as you can, since it’s very easy to schedule them on lunch breaks, coffee breaks, etc., and then be very picky about who you go in for a face-to-face interview with.

So do tons of phone interviews, but only say, “yes” to the absolute best companies for an in-person meeting (based on what you learn in those phone interviews).

2. Ask questions upfront

A big part of looking for a job when you have a job is protecting your time and managing your time.

I mentioned above that you should be selective, and the only way to do that is to know about each opportunity BEFORE agreeing to interview.

So ask for a job description before an interview if you don’t already have it.

Ask great questions in each phone interview so you can make a better decision about whether to go in face-to-face if they invite you. You can get a huge list of great questions to ask here.

Then you’ll be able to accurately decide which roles make sense to pursue and spend time interviewing for, and which don’t.

As an added bonus, knowing a bit about each job before interviewing will help you answer common questions like, “Why do you think you’d be a good fit for this job?” and “Why do you want to work here?”

3. Get creative with scheduling

If a company proposes a time that you can’t do, tell them, and ask for what you need. Early in my career, I had a company schedule my interviews from 7 AM – 8:30 AM, so I could get to work at 9:30 AM.

Getting to work slightly late is a lot better than having to take a full day off. When you’re interviewing while you have a job, you want to save sick days for when you absolutely need them, so ask for early or late interviews when you can.

They won’t always say, “yes”, and that’s okay. Have a conversation, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Just be reasonable and if they can’t do it, work with them to come up with something that will work.

4. Be ready to compromise

Getting time off from work to go on interviews isn’t easy. But neither is organizing a hiring manager’s time to interview you (plus anyone else you’re going to meet – because more and more companies are having you meet multiple people before they hire you).

So be reasonable, and be willing to compromise. If you make a scheduling request and they simply cannot do it, stay calm and try to understand their needs.

If you just think of it as a conversation where both sides are trying their best to make it work, you’ll be able to find a way to get it done.

5. Use your sick time wisely

You can use one or two sick days in most jobs before your boss starts getting suspicious that you’re job searching.

So try to save them for when you really need them (a full-day interview, etc.)

You can also think about whether you can use one or two vacation days as needed.

I mentioned earlier that one strategy to save sick days is to schedule early-morning or late-afternoon interviews so you don’t miss a full day of work. So that’s another way to save those “full” sick days for when you really need them.

Coming in one hour late (you can say it’s for a doctor’s appointment or anything else), is better than missing a full day.

6. Dress up (or don’t)

Let’s say they agree to interview you from 8 AM to 9 AM, so you can still make it to work later that morning.

Now, normally you’d want to wear a suit for most interviews. But if you wear business casual at your job, walking in with a suit at 10 AM is going to be a dead giveaway that you’re interviewing for another position. Not good, right?

So you have two options:

You could ask them, “I’m going to work immediately after. Is it alright if I dress in business casual?”

Most companies will understand and say it’s okay, and then the person you’re meeting with will know why you’re dressed down.

Or, you could always just wear a suit and tie (or full women’s business attire if you’re a woman), and then remove the jacket, necktie (if you’re a man), etc., before going to work, so that you’re not too over-dressed at your job that day.

It’s up to you. The point is, don’t be afraid to ask for things and have a conversation to make interviewing more comfortable for you.

7. Remember your goal and stay focused on that

Looking for a job and going on interviews while employed is going to be a bit stressful, so be ready for that. On one hand, it’s less pressure when you have a job, but the scheduling part is more stressful.

So remind yourself why you’re doing this when you feel stressed, and think about what you stand to gain…

  • A higher salary
  • A job you’re more excited about
  • A better boss, better coworkers or both
  • More exciting projects and work
  • A better career path or brighter future for you

And remember you’re lucky to be interviewing when you have a job. A lot of people – and most of the readers of this blog – do not have a job when looking for a job. They have no income coming in and it’s very stressful/difficult mentally.

8. Don’t cut corners on interview preparation!

Chances are you’re only going to be able to go on a few face-to-face interviews before your boss figures out you’re job searching. So make the most of them.

One way is to be selective and say “no” to interviews that you’re not excited about. I mentioned that earlier.

But the other way is to make sure you walk in ultra-prepared and ready to “wow” the hiring manager and turn the interview into a job offer!

Here are two resources I recommend to make sure you’re 100% ready:

  1. How to answer “tell me about yourself”
  2. Interview preparation checklist

9. Make sure to follow up after your interviews

Think about how much time and energy it takes to get interviews… from writing your resume, talking to your network, applying for jobs online, sending endless scheduling emails, and finally taking time off from work to go to the interview.

So after the interview, doesn’t it make sense to stay organized so that you can follow up, check for feedback, and thank interviewers for their time to boost your chances of getting get hired?

I recommend you track everything in a spreadsheet including:

  • How many interviews you’ve had with them
  • Date of the last interview
  • Next steps in the process
  • When they said they’d send feedback
  • Whether you’ve followed up already or not, and on what date

Then send thank you emails a day after the interview, and follow-up emails after 5-6 days if you heard no response.

10. Don’t tell coworkers

If you have friends at work, it may be tempting to tell them you’re interviewing, but don’t do it!

Gossip spreads fast in most work environments. They might think they’re just telling another friend harmlessly, but then that friend could tell a third person and before you know it – your boss finds out.

Then what if you don’t end up accepting a new position? It looks horrible.

So just play it safe, and tell your friends AFTER you find a new job. They’ll understand if you tell them you were waiting because you wanted to keep it professional and wait until things were final.

In fact, as another tip, I’d actually recommend handing your 2-week notice or resignation letter to your boss before telling friends too.

You do NOT ever want to risk your boss finding out you’re resigning, via gossip, before you formally hand in your resignation. So after you’ve accepted a job offer, resign formally, then tell your coworkers and friends.

If you follow these tips you’ll have a lot less stress interviewing when you have a job, and you’ll be more successful in those interviews.

Biron Clark

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2 thoughts on “Interviewing When You Have a Job: Tips from a Recruiter”

  1. Thank you for this advice. I just had to turn down an interview today with the school system because they could not work with my 8-5 schedule. ? I had to come in one day for a test and then the very next day for an interview if they liked my results. It’s very disheartening. But I can’t risk my current job for a maybe. I’ve never applied for other jobs while at a full time position. I can’t plan to take off, leave early, or come in later for multiple days without my employer knowing something is going on. Hopefully the next time will work with me.

  2. Great advice here. It’s important to be selective when you are interviewing especially when you have a job since your time is limited. Also, it’s a bad idea to search for jobs or make phone calls to other employers on company time. Not only is it wrong, but someone is likely to overhear you or there could be traces of your job search on your company computer.

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